We Only Live When We Love

Wednesday of Week 13 in Ordinary Time - Cycle II

Amos 5:14-15, 21-24 & Mt. 8:28-34

A story is told about a king who was making a tour of his kingdom. He came across a very old man working in his vineyard. He asked him his age. 'Your Majesty, I am four years old!' The king laughingly protested until he explained, 'Your majesty, I count only those moments I have faithfully served the Lord. Those were the only moments I lived.'

The Israelites to whom Amos preached would have found it difficult to reckon the time they had spent faithfully serving the Lord. They would have wanted to include all the hours absorbed in worship, prayer and the offering of sacrifice. But Amos discounted all that. He told them that their liturgical celebrations without a good life are an abomination to God. He emphasized that worship must lead to a truly religious life in which one must show respect for the rights of others.

We would all agree that the time we spend in Church worshipping God should be time well spent. But if we do not concentrate on the liturgy, or if our celebration of Mass does not have a good effect on the way we live, then our attendance at Mass is a waste of time. God does not expect us to be perfect, even after many years of daily Mass, but He does want to see evidence that we are trying to be better people.

Time is a precious gift given us by God to serve Him. It is so precious that He gives it to us only moment by moment, and when one moment is gone it can never be recovered. When each of us comes before God in death, He will want to know 'how old' we are in His service. Let us hope that He can count not only the times spent in prayer but also the good we have done to others.

Today's Gospel reading will always be controversial. People will always question Jesus' course of action, asking whether it was really necessary for Him to allow that herd of pigs to be destroyed in order to free two men of demons. Our faith teaches us that, because Jesus is God, all wise and all loving, whatever He does is right.

But there are some people who make a hullabaloo about the destruction of the pigs and yet think nothing is wrong with abortions! Or again, there are some people who rear livestock and think nothing of the care and welfare of those same animals when they have to be transported to another country in dreadful conditions. We can be certain that Jesus by His course of action is not condoning cruelty and ill-treatment to animals, but teaching us that we can never compare the value of a herd of swine with the value of a person's life.

The supreme tragedy of this story lies in its conclusion. Those who were herding the pigs ran back to the town and told the people what had happened - and the result was that they begged Jesus to leave their territory at once! Here is human selfishness at its worst. It did not matter to them that two men had been freed from demons and given back their reason. Their pigs had perished! We can feel for them that their livelihood had gone, of course, but they could have shown some happiness for the two men who were given a better quality of life.

Jesus wants us to remember that a human being is to be valued above not only animal life but also material profits. Do we always remember to thank our heavenly Father for all the good things He gives us? Do we rejoice when other people have good things come their way or are we envious and resentful? Perhaps we too need Jesus to exorcise from us the demons of envy and resentment? We need Jesus’ help as did the people who told Him to leave their neighbourhood.

Heavenly Father, we pray for the unity of our world, that we will recognise the value of human life, and that we are all Your children.